Can’t believe the summer is concluding so soon, but classes start in less than a week now, so it’s time for my last post.
Throughout the summer, I kept the blog updated with mostly what was going on at LaFarm, and didn’t go over a good deal of what I was specifically here to do when I wasn’t growing tomatoes and harvesting kale. So for my wrap up, I’ll go over what I was doing off the farm.
Way back in the first weeks of June, I met with my team of faculty advisors; Professors Cohen, Reiter, and Brandes as well as Sarah; to discuss just what I should be doing with my research. At that meeting, it was decided that the best specific thing to work toward would be answering the question “What would it take to get a Packinghouse and a Greenhouse at LaFarm?” as those are the two things we need most to get as much as we want to out of the farm.
Before I could do something as complicated as making plans for agricultural infrastructure, I had a lot of research to do. Getting resources from the Professors, Sarah, and from Tianna DuPont, the USDA extension agent for PA, I had my work cut out for me. I read a host of books, articles, and downright tomes on farming, totaling 12 sources varying in length from 10 pages to over 300, and that was just my library research. The best way to learn about farming is truly to see what others have done, how, why, and how you can change that to fit your needs, so it was also necessary for me to visit other farms with infrastructure to gather more information.
I ended up visiting 5 farms: The sprawling student farm at Delaware Valley College; the freshly moved Good Work Farm outside of Emmaus, that Sarah helped to start; the Seed Farm which raises upstarts into a position where they can start their own farm (also in Emmaus and Sarah attended there before starting Good Work Farm); Blooming Glen Farm, a profitable family business farm that’s been established for around a decade; and the educational Pennypack Farm down south near Philadelphia. All of these farms had different set ups and different recommendations, as well as different purposes set out for themselves.
Going to those farms and working with as well as talking to the farmers in all those places was not only an amazing learning experience but also one of the most influential and inspiring things to see for someone who aspires to be a farmer one day. Each of the farmers I met has had their own experiences, has their own ideas, their own plans and dreams, their own way of looking at things, making them all very unique. Learning from all of them really put my ideas for my future in perspective.
And it was very helpful for this summer’s work too. In conjunction with the foundations I learned in the books I read, seeing and hearing from real farmers in our region helped me truly understand what we would need in a Packinghouse and how we would set up a Greenhouse at LaFarm. Plans are being cooked up right now, as my work rolls over into the fall. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we have enough support and a clear enough idea that we will be able to actually go to the administration and get a green light.
For now, I’ll continue refining what I have, and learning more about growing food sustainably. The point of my work after all, has been to create an environment in which more people will understand why sustainability matters, and how to be responsible in fostering it. Another of my projects for the Fall is to help write an article linking my work this summer with that vision which is lofty, realistic and necessary all at the same time.
-Joe Ingrao, Excel Scholar Summer 2014